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March 27, 2020

Attack in Kabul

Editorial

 
March 27, 2020

The attack on a Sikh gurdwara located in the heart of Kabul which killed at least 25 people and wounded many more has struck fear into the hearts of Afghans, especially religious minorities and all other groups who had hoped for peace in the troubled country. Just days ago, another attack on a gathering of Shias also in Kabul had killed 32. Could Afghanistan be returning to its dark, troubled past? We can only hope this is not the case and that by some miracle all its people and those of the region can be kept safe from a further round of violence, death and targeted killing. The attack on the gurdwara, which has been claimed by Isis, was carried out early Wednesday, when scores of worshippers were inside the place of worship which is also used to house Sikh families. At least three suicide bombers stormed the building and initially opened fire on worshippers amidst scenes of terror. Afghan security forces backed by Nato personnel were able to enter the besieged gurdwara only after many hours of horror.

The US and Nato forces are set to withdraw from Afghanistan as has been agreed upon in a deal signed between the Taliban and the US. There has been a lack of progress on taking this agreement forward since then, as the next stage, a dialogue between the Taliban and Afghan government has proved impossible. The dispute over the results of the Afghan election of September last year has resulted in two parallel governments being set up in the country, with former CEO Abdullah Abdullah challenging the leadership of President Ashraf Ghani who is currently in charge.

The Taliban, who currently hold a position of immense power in Afghanistan, have denied any responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Kabul’s beleaguered Sikh community. They have however not condemned the attack either. Kabul was home to some 200,000 Sikhs until thirty years ago, when the growing violence against them led to many fleeing, mainly to India. Under the Taliban rule of the 1990s, Sikhs were ordered to wear yellow turbans or armbands so they could be easily identified. Though many refused to do so, the message was clear as it was for other Afghan minorities. Today, only some 300 Sikh families live in Kabul. Though they are the sole minority protected under Afghan law, their position is a perilous one and the latest attack will only add to the insecurity and fear they are forced to live with.